16 April 2024
read our Loves Lie Bleeding reviewed by Paul Devine at UK Premiere at Glasgow Film Festival 2024

Film Review – Love Lies Bleeding (2024)

2024 is a special year for the Glasgow Film Festival, marking 20 years in existence. For the opening gala, they aimed for something extraordinary, and boy (or should I say girl), they delivered with Rose Glass’ Love Lies Bleeding.

Typically, the festival announces its opening and closing premieres over month before, but this year was different – it all happened on press launch day. The sophomore follow-up to Saint Maud, call it queer noir? Whatever label you choose, it’s explosive, surreal, gritty, pulpy and absolutely bonkers!

Love Lies Bleeding made its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and then had a stop at Berlinale before making its UK premiere in Glasgow. It arrived with a significant reputation and never held back in terms of angle or even the genre it wanted to step into. The filter must not have been working, and for the sake of the film, we’re glad it didn’t.

The cold, dull winter days of Scarborough, northeast England, are replaced with 1980s New Mexico. The American dream still stands tall in the drug-induced, erotic world the film is set in. In a small town in the middle of nowhere, Kristen Stewart portrays Lou, who manages a gym. Her life is mundane—printing off membership cards, unblocking toilets. Her world turns upside down when Jackie (Katy O’Brian), a wannabe bodybuilder drifter, walks into the gym.

Sparks flew right away when the pair locked eyes on each other. Jackie wants to head to Las Vegas to enter a bodybuilding competition. She has also started a job as a waitress at the local gun range, which happens to be owned by Lou Senior (Ed Harris), Lou’s dad. Lou also has to daily wave off unwanted advances from Daisy (Anna Baryshnikov). However, that doesn’t stop her and Jackie’s love from blossoming. As things get deeper, Jackie quickly learns about the dark side of Lou’s family, whose dad happens to be the local crime lord. It’s a piece of her past Lou would love to run away from, but she feels obliged to stay for her sister Beth (Jena Malone), who seems to be a daily ‘punch bag’ for her abusive ratbag of a husband, JJ (Dave Franco).

Is their love real, or is it simply delusional? A means for Lou to escape the dark heart that questions everything they do. She now has the dream girl by her side, and the first date wasn’t a quick drink at the local boozers. No, it was steroids—a jab in the backside transforming Jackie into an Amazonian bodybuilding goddess. A blissful figment that becomes the catalyst for her transformation into a ‘she-hulk,’ a vessel of violence. Like Popeye taking his spinach or Dr. David Banner triggered by emotions, it’s curtains for anyone who angers her.

In Love Lies Bleeding, there is no goodness in any of the characters. They’ve all done bad things in their pasts; obsession drives them, pushing things to the extreme. There is no sentimentality between Lou and Jacky, just horny girls caught in the world of blood, dirt, sweat, and violence. Our leading ladies are in ecstasy they come to a point where they depend on each other however, they are walking right into disaster after disaster. Lou’s painful past is seen through flashbacks painted in red, a colour in film that represents danger.

Kirsten Stewart and Katy O’Brian‘s performances are as dynamic as they are exhilarating. Stewart does what she has done so well  post-Twilight: playing fragile and insecure characters. O’Brian might be all muscle, but deep down, she is a soft teddy bear who becomes a monster when the steroids take effect. Harris and Franco were fine; their outlandish mullets did threaten to steal their fire. Malone is great casting as Lou’s kooky sister. Baryshnikov does threaten to steal the scene as the meth head Daisy.

Clint Mansell’s pulsating score transports us right into the 1980s genre-bending, kaleidoscopic world Love Lies Bleeding is set in. The film asks you to suspend your disbelief, especially in the final part. What starts as a pulpy neo-noir, Attack Of The 50 Foot Women, body horror, and even Showgirls are thrown into the mix. It’s a stylish, queer noir that’s funny and deeply satisfying.

★★★★

Crime, Thriller |UK/USA, 2023 | 15 | 2024 GFF / BFI Flare | 3rd May 2024 (UK, Cinema) | Lionsgate Films | Dir. Rose Glass | Kirsten Stewart, Katy O’Brian, Ed Harris, Jena Malone, Dave Franco, Anna Baryshnikov


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